Last month, we were invited to host a crochet workshop at the Homestead Museum in City of Industry. Since the museum focuses on California history during the Victorian era into the 1920s, we decided to base our workshop around a needlework practice that was very popular during the Victorian era: crochet sampler books! Crochet sampler books were/are books filled with small-scale crochet or lace pieces made by the book’s owner. Samplers served as a space to be filled with a woman’s practice stitches, superb fancywork pieces, or even experimental needlework pieces.
We began with a short intro presentation about the history of crochet and its evolution and significance through time. The Homestead was generous enough to lend us some pieces from their collection for our presentation! Here’s some “behind-the-scenes” photos of our exploration of the museum’s collection of crochet textiles, magazines, and pattern books:
After the presentation, we got to work! Alyssa made a great Crochet Craft Sampler Compendium filled with decorative edging patterns. Mostly everyone in the class had previous crochet experience, so it was easy going with the first few basic patterns. Once we got to the last two patterns, though, it was a perfect challenge for some. (Which is good; we were afraid that people would be master crocheters and would be bored!)
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves during our three-hour workshop. We all worked with our hands, listened to music, and talked about our individual needlework projects. This is what we love about crochet; it brings people together. We like to think we were connecting with the unnamed, uncredited women of Victorian past who created simple crochet and elaborate lace pieces to put in their sampler books all those decades ago. They probably had similar social gatherings where they would work, talk, and bond with other female family and friends. Unfortunately, most crochet sampler books have been lost to time. The ones we do have are very rarely dated and attributed to anyone. We did find one attributed sampler book that has been digitized by the National Museum of American History! You can view it here. We could go into a lengthy tirade about the patriarchy, craft vs. fine art, class, gender, and race. But we won’t for now. 😉